The problems of block booking for societies in EUSA have been well documented. The years of committee members lining up outside Teviot at ridiculous hours in the morning are thankfully well gone. That ancient and unfair system of ‘first come first serve’ was a mess, and one that EUSA were right to change. However the level of frustration with the treatment of societies by EUSA has been growing within committees
Recently, an email was sent to all Office Bearers of societies from outgoing EUSA VPSA Eve Livingston, outlining the plans for the much-needed Pleasance refurbishment, society block booking for semester one, and a new ‘Give It A Go’ scheme along similar lines to the Sport Union’s ‘EDex’ events.
While the first and last issues on the email were generally positive, they were totally overshadowed by the complete lack of intelligence, respect and sense that came with the announcement of the block booking arrangements.
Along with the usual guff of ill-defined ‘fairness’ of the block booking system, the email stated that “The form will be open from 10am Tuesday 5th May to 5pm Wednesday 6th May” and that “You will also be sent details of what has already been booked on Monday 4th May, so you know what rooms/times to avoid.”
What EUSA expect 240 societies, or in other words an absolute minimum of 720 student office bearers, to do in the space of 48 hours is organise the what, where and when of all of their events in semester one. Excluding the effort that goes into organising a committee meeting at short-to-no notice in the middle of exam season, this remains a huge undertaking and it is a slap in the face to societies for EUSA to expect this to happen on such a small time scale. Quite how EUSA expect a society the size of Politics and International Relations to do that in such a short space of time while dancing around the prioritised private and EUSA bookings is utterly staggering.
An example of similar block booking chaos from this academic year is Relief Theatre who on the 16th January received an email confirming rooms for the 15th January. This was over two months after the initial bookings were made.
This is not the first instance of EUSA treating societies poorly. In January of this year there was a ‘Societies Fair’ put on as part of a wider (and frankly laughablely poor) Refreshers’ Week. This fair was advertised to students as the same as the popular equivilant during September’s Freshers’ Week. However, the difference was that those invited to the one in January came from a pre-selected list of around thirty societies and most societies heard about it through university-wide EUSA emails in early January rather than having the option of participating.
On top of this, stories of societies being told they haven’t confirmed bookings when they have sent emails a week earlier, emails to EUSA marketing being ignored, and being charged for technicians that don’t turn up lends credence to the accepted theory that EUSA views societies simply as cash-cows. Societies use EUSA venues, members buy food and drink in Teviot and Pleasance and societies see none of that money apart from a paltry 50p per £10 spent at the bars if you have a Soc Card. In simple terms, societies are a money pinata for EUSA.
While they will continue to pander to private companies masquerading as the “biggest benefit to students” EUSA needs to start treating societies with a degree of respect. Talking to them or setting up a society led taskforce would help sort these problems out. Until then, societies will continue to suffer and may start to disappear.